LEGAZPI CITY: Over 1,000 supporters of slain AKO-Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe on Friday rallied on the streets to contest the court’s decision allowing ex-mayor Carlwyn Baldo to post bail.
The protest march was led by Gertie Duran-Batocabe’ parents Cesar, 80, and Amy, 76, along with supporters from all walks of life reciting the holy rosary altogether while heading to the Legazpi City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
The protest march was fuelled by Judge Maria Theresa San Juan Loquillano of the Legazpi City RTC Branch 10 decision allowing Baldo to post bail for a non-bailable offense.
Supporters of Batocabe and AKO-Bicol lawmakers expressed their outrage as they questioned the court’s decision which ignored the six witnesses tagging the ex-mayor as mastermind of the killing.
Baldo had posted an P8-million bail on Tuesday after the local court had ordered his release.
Batocabe’s supporters said they mourned the loss of a true and selfless leader and a protector of the people as they called for the swift justice for Batocabe and his police escort Orlando Diaz.
“We’re asking Judge Loquillano to reverse her decision not to allow ex-mayor Baldo to post bail,” Gertie said.
“At first we’re happy that the case of Rodel landed in her sala who is reportedly a straight judge. But with her decision, we’re no longer happy and we are seeking a judge the likes of Judge Harriet Demetriou to handle, hear and try the case of Rodel,” she told The Manila Times.
The late Batocabe’s son Justin had warned that despite their “grief, shock, anger and disbelief” brought by the decision, they would file a motion for reconsideration to appeal Baldo’s release.
“He is not yet totally free. His bail now only grants him temporary liberty. We must still see him in court,” Justin added.
The prayer rally started at Saint Rafael parish in Legazpi City on Friday morning headed to Regional Trial Court at regional center sites.
Beth Alberto, 80, of Daraga town also joined the rally in a quest for Loquillano to reverse her previous decision granting Baldo to post bail.
“Rodel offered his blood by taking care of us until his last breathe. We’re saddened by Judge Loquillano’s decision which we thought is a good one. That’s why we’re calling that the likes of Judge Harriet Demetriou will handle Congressman Rodel Batocabe’s case and his aide,” she said.
Demetriou was the judge who sentenced Antonio Sanchez, former mayor of Calauan, Laguna to seven life terms for the rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of friend Allan Gomez, students from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, in 1993.
AKO-Bicol party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co said Loquillano issued the bail order twice, which allowed Baldo to post a bail bond for a non-bailable offense.
“This is the second time the judge allowed Baldo to post a bail, which is a non-bailable case… First is the explosive devices found in his house by the Muella and second is the murder case, which are both non-bailable. All evidences pinpointing at him by six witnesses, just because Baldo was not in the crime scene? Does this mean that if you are the mastermind you should be on the site? Then all masterminds would be bailable?” Co said.
“Let’s us fight to stop another grave injustice to the late AKO-Bicol Congressman Rodel M. Batocabe and his brave police escort SPO4 Orlando Diaz,” he urged.
Lawmakers had suspected “legal maneuvering” behind Baldo’s freedom, as one of his alleged cohorts had pointed to him as the mastermind in the Batocabe slay.
Co said there were reports that some of the witnesses retracted their previous testimonies following the failure of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to give the bounty or reward.
He added it was hard for the witnesses to recant their testimonies, as he admitted they received reports witnesses were fighting for the P30-million reward money.
“That’s the problem with the P30-million reward, they are fighting… the witnesses are hungry. I heard [the] PNP got the lion share that’s why witnesses are discouraged,” Co said.
“It’s very hard to retract, when all circumstantial evidences are there, like the guns inside the house of Baldo as reported by the witnesses. The Isuzu white car that was used in the killing… the guns used by the killer, recovered by PNP in their houses. And we need to conduct a re-enactments on the killings so the witnesses can confirm or deny,” Co added.
Co said they were uniting to protest against Loquillano’s order to grant Baldo to post bail on the two non-bailable offenses of illegal possession of explosive devices and double murder.
“This is very disappointing, not only to the law enforcement agency, to the people of Daraga, but also to the victims’ families who long sought justice for Batocabe,” he said.
Batocabe and his police escort were killed at the covered court of barangay Burgos in Daraga town lst December 22, 2018 while giving Christmas gifts to senior citizens and persons with disabilities. WITH A REPORT FROM GLEE JALEA